A strategy against peer-group violence, featuring key points that can impact the prevention of violence, was presented on Tuesday by the Children's Ombudswoman's Network of Young Counsellors (MMS).

Psychological peer-group violence is particularly dangerous for children as is their exclusion from society and isolation which often goes unnoticed by adults, and many children do not recognise this as violence. As such it needs to be stopped as soon as possible, work with the perpetrators and victims should be intensified, the work of institutions needs to be coordinated better and parents need to be provided with counselling, it was said at the presentation.

The strategy names key stakeholders and assigns tasks to the family, kindergarten, Ministry of Science, Education and Sports, associations, children's ombudswoman and members of the MMS themselves.

MMS is comprised of 20 children aged between 12 and 18 from all over Croatia who advise the ombudswoman and help her to be better informed of the problems and needs of their peers as well as spread information among their own peers of children's rights and the role of the ombudswoman in their protection.

"What MMS tells us is that psychological violence is often unnoticed... although the children have told us that it exists in every school and every grade," Children's Ombudswoman Ivana Milas Klaric said.

She added that her office received 1,600 complaints a year with peer-group violence being the second or third most frequent type of complaint. Children are excluded in line with different criteria such as their social status, physical appearance, and ethnic background, she said.

Milas Klaric said that she had sent the strategy to the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports as a sort of recommendation. Education and prevention has to exist from the earliest age and all stakeholders, from the civil sector to the relevant ministry, have to do something regarding this issue, she said.

The strategy, entitled "Stop silence that hurts", is a result of research by secondary school students of the problem of bullying and possible ways to prevent it. The research was part of the international project "Let's Talk Young, Let's Talk About Violence!" launched by the Enhancing Networking for Youth Activities (ENYA) event.

The strategy notes that the Ministry needs to organise education about peer-group violence and make recommendations while associations can contribute by organising workshops and various functions for adults and children to participate in raising awareness of the issues of violence.

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